The iPad is on its way. Apple started accepting pre-orders earlier this month, but there are still many unanswered questions about what iPad will deliver in its final form.

One thing that almost certainly won’t be present when the iPad ships: support for Adobe Flash. That has numerous raised questions about both the iPad and Flash. After all, if the device Apple is betting so big on doesn’t support Flash, will publishers, who have seen Apple’s success with the iPhone, be forced to adopt Flash alternatives in order to position themselves to cash in if the iPad achieves success of its own? Or is Apple simply fighting a fight it can’t win?

One big publisher — CBS — may already be hedging its bets. According to MacRumors, bizarre “iPad – test” links have been spotted on CBS.com. These links point to pages containing videos. When loaded in a web browser, these videos are Flash-based. But when loaded using the iPad SDK simulator, these videos (which don’t yet work) appear to be based on HTML5.

The implication, of course, is that CBS has decided that finding a way to distribute its website video content on the iPad is a worthy investment despite the fact that the iPad isn’t here and nobody yet knows just how important it will eventually be. If anything, that says a lot about publishers’ eagerness to be ahead of the curve. If the iPad turns out to be a hit, publishers don’t want to be playing catch up this time around.

Of course, it would be premature to point to CBS’ example, for instance, as evidence that Flash is dying. Many companies have made significant investments in Flash, and already have a significant amount of Flash-based content, some of which is not easily converted. HTML5 isn’t here, and there will likely always be a place for Flash (and other RIAs), even if HTML5 eventually takes a larger part of the market for things like online video delivery.

The risk for Adobe, of course, is that the iPad is giving publishers a motivation to adopt alternative technologies alongside Flash. Alternative technologies that could also serve as Flash replacements altogether at some point in the future. The risk for publishers, however, is that the iPad won’t be as big as many have predicted. There may be very valid reasons for publishers to look at Flash alternatives going forward, but technology decisions made on assumption and speculation alone could prove quite costly.

Photo credit: Richard-G via Flickr.